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Latest Developments in Ukraine: April 27


Men hold portraits of from left: Kira Glodan, three-month-old, her mother Valerya Glodan, 28, and grandmother Lyudmila Yavkina, 54, killed in their apartment by shelling, during a funeral ceremony at the Transfiguration Cathedral in Odesa, Ukraine, April 27. 2022.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

Recap of April 27
FIGHTING
* Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to Russia’s parliament that the goals of the country’s military operation in Ukraine will be achieved.
* Ukraine’s General Staff said Wednesday that Russia’s military has captured several settlements in the eastern Donbas region.
* Russian forces were on Wednesday pounding a huge steel works in Mariupol where the southern Ukrainian city’s last defenders and some civilians are holed up.
* The U.K. military intelligence said Wednesday that Russia has limited air access to the north and west of Ukraine, limiting offensive actions to deep strikes with stand-off weapons.
HUMANITARIAN
* Pro-Ukrainian protesters in the Russian-occupied southern city of Kherson were violently dispersed Wednesday, and four people were injured.
* The World Health Organization says the war in Ukraine has interrupted lifesaving immunizations in Ukraine, setting back years of progress in countering vaccine preventable diseases.
* The United Nations said Wednesday that it has teams in Moscow and Kyiv that are following up on the agreement “in principle” that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres got from Vladimir Putin during their meeting Tuesday to allow the U.N. and the ICRC to evacuate civilians trapped in the Azavstol steel plant in Mariupol.
* More than 5.3 million Ukrainians have fled their country since Russia invaded two months ago, the United Nations said Wednesday.
DIPLOMACY
* Britain’s top diplomat says the West should send “heavy weapons, tanks, aeroplanes” to Ukraine to bolster its fight against Russia’s invasion.
* Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak on Wednesday welcomed promises by the United States and its allies to send more heavy weaponry to Ukraine.
* Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Twitter Wednesday that he has been invited to the upcoming G-20 Summit by host nation Indonesia.
* Finland and Sweden must prepare for increased Russian spy operations, cyber attacks and attempts to influence lawmakers as they consider joining NATO.
ECONOMY
* Russian energy giant Gazprom GAZP.MM said it has completely halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland due to absence of payments in rubles.
*Poland’s prime minister has lashed out at Russia for trying to “blackmail” his country with an abrupt cutoff of gas supplies.
NUCLEAR
* A team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency are meeting this week with their Ukraine counterparts to discuss current nuclear and radiation safety and security at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities.
* The International Atomic Energy Agency’s director general says the level of safety at Europe’s largest nuclear plant, currently under Russian occupation in Ukraine, is like a “red light blinking” as his organization tries in vain to get access for work including repairs.
SANCTIONS
* Russia’s foreign ministry has announced sanctions on 287 members of Britain’s House of Commons.
* The head of the European Union’s executive Commission says energy companies in the 27-nation bloc that agree to Moscow’s demands to pay for gas deliveries in Russian rubles will be breaching the sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
* Canada said on Wednesday it was imposing sanctions on 203 individuals that it says are complicit in Russia's attempted annexation of certain areas of Donbas in eastern Ukraine

The latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT:

9:15 p.m.: Britain Foreign Secretary Liz Truss says Western allies should send tanks, planes and other heavy weapons to Ukraine, saying “inaction would be the greatest provocation.”

NATO nations have supplied Ukraine with military supplies including missiles and armored vehicles. But so far they have been reluctant to send fighter planes for fear of escalating the conflict, The Associated Press reports.

Truss said “this is a time for courage, not caution.” Despite Truss’ call for jets, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said there were “no plans” for the U.K. to send planes to Ukraine.

8:50 p.m.: An independent research group says Germany was the biggest buyer of Russian energy during the two months since the start of the war in Ukraine.

A study published by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air calculates that Russia earned $66.5 billion from fossil fuel exports since Russian troops attacked Ukraine on February 24, with Germany paying 9.1 billion euros.

The German government says it can’t comment on estimates and declines to provide any figures of its own.

8:10 p.m.: More than 5.3 million Ukrainians have fled their country since Russia invaded two months ago, the United Nations said Wednesday, with more than 52,000 joining their ranks in the past 24 hours, Agence France-Presse reports.

In total, 5,317,219 people have fled Ukraine as refugees since February 24, according to the latest data from the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR.

That marks an increase of 52,452 over the figure given on Tuesday.

While the outflow has slowed significantly since March, UNHCR has projected that three million more Ukrainians could become refugees by the end of the year.

7:36 p.m.: The U.S. Department of Energy on Wednesday said it authorized more liquefied natural gas shipments from two plants in construction and development, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine increases focus on boosting the domestic fossil fuel industry, Reuters reports.

The department said the approvals allow Golden Pass LNG in Texas to export an additional equivalent of 0.35 billion cubic feet per day of LNG to any country not prohibited by U.S. law. Also, Magnolia LNG in Louisiana can now export an additional 0.15 billion cubic feet per day also to any country not prohibited by U.S. law.

7:02 p.m.: In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy talks about Ukrainian exports, stabilizing markets and what he called Russia's attempts to provoke a global price crisis.

He also praised the protests in Kherson, saying, "I am grateful to everyone who has not given up, who is protesting, who is ignoring the occupiers and showing the marginal people who have become collaborators that there is no future for them."

Supporters continue to leave flowers outside the Ukrainian embassy in Georgetown, a tony neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Many feature the sunflower, the National flower of Ukraine, now a symbol of peace.
Supporters continue to leave flowers outside the Ukrainian embassy in Georgetown, a tony neighborhood in Washington, D.C. Many feature the sunflower, the National flower of Ukraine, now a symbol of peace.

6:20 p.m.:

The Ukrainian embassy sits on a busy, noisy street in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood. At the war’s beginning, people daily dropped off numerous posters, notes, flowers, and other mementoes of support. These days, as VOA's Carolyn Presutti found, some flowers in vases line the street, some are silk sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine. Tied to a railing is a small hand-knitted blue and yellow flower — the colors of the Ukrainian flag. The displays decrease the longer the war continues.

Sophia LaFountaine of Rosslyn, Virginia, is protesting outside the Ukrainian embassy, April 27, 2022.
Sophia LaFountaine of Rosslyn, Virginia, is protesting outside the Ukrainian embassy, April 27, 2022.

That hasn’t diminished the energy of Sophia LaFountaine. With her tiny build, the gray haired woman wears a yellow dress with a blue lanyard and a backpack. She stands dangerously close to passing cars in the front of the embassy as the sole protestor, waving the Ukrainian and American flags and a poster that reads, “Stop Putin Madness. Save Ourselves.”

LaFountaine says the war is breaking her heart. “I am tired of seeing the babies die with no corridor to get out,” she tells VOA’s Presutti. The Virginia woman wants the United States to “pitch in more” with additional weaponry for Ukraine.

5:20 p.m.: Canadian lawmakers voted unanimously on Wednesday to call Russia's attacks in Ukraine a genocide, with members of parliament saying there was "ample evidence of systemic and massive war crimes against humanity" being committed by Moscow, Reuters reports.

The Canadian House of Commons' motion said war crimes by Russia include mass atrocities, systematic instances of willful killing of Ukrainian civilians, the desecration of corpses, forcible transfer of Ukrainian children, torture, physical harm, mental harm, and rape.

3:55 p.m.: Russia and the United States exchanged prisoners Wednesday, trading a Marine veteran jailed in Moscow for a convicted Russian drug trafficker serving a long prison sentence in America. The surprise deal involved Trevor Reed, an American jailed for nearly three years.

The Associated Press takes a look at who Reed is, why he was imprisoned and what will happen now that he’s been released.

3:01 p.m.: Genocide or not? U.S. President Joe Biden has called Russia’s actions in Ukraine a genocide and legal experts say there is a basis to make the case. VOA’s Lesia Bakalets spoke to experts who help define what is happening in Ukraine.

2:30 p.m.: Ukraine’s Ministry of Culture and Information Policy accuses Russia of committing war crimes by destroying or damaging 242 cultural heritage sites and objects. The U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has verified damage to 110 sites since Russia’s invasion began on February 24. As the war drags on, there are concerns that more sites will be added to the list. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has compiled this photo essay.

1:56 p.m.: Russian government hackers carried out multiple cyber operations against Ukraine that appeared to support Moscow’s military attacks and online propaganda campaigns, Microsoft said in a report on Wednesday. The reported intrusions - some of which have not been previously disclosed - suggest that hacking has played a bigger role in the conflict than what has been publicly known, Reuters reported.

1:39 p.m.:
Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, published an op-ed Wednesday, noting that “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced the European Union to accelerate the pace of our energy and climate policy.” He criticized Russia’s “weaponization of energy supplies” in a message on Twitter, the same day that Russia cut off all gas supplies to Poland and Belarus.

1:27 p.m.: The United Nations said Wednesday that it has teams in Moscow and Kyiv that are following up on the agreement “in principle” that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres got from Vladimir Putin during their meeting Tuesday to allow the U.N. and the ICRC to evacuate civilians trapped in the Azavstol steel plant in Mariupol, VOA’s U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer reported. Spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters that discussions are taking place Wednesday on the operational framework for the evacuation. “What we have still is an agreement in principle; what we are trying to do it is translate that into an agreement in detail, and an agreement on the ground,” Haq said. He said they need a few days to prepare for the operation, but that “speed is of the essence.”

1:13 p.m.: Neither Russia nor Ukraine produces palm oil, a tropical commodity, but Moscow’s invasion has triggered knock-on effects across today’s intricately interconnected global economy, Reuters reported. The conflict has helped propel prices for palm oil - ubiquitous in African dishes from Nigerian jollof rice to Ivorian sticky alloco plantains - to record highs that experts say will deepen a food-cost crisis and punish the poorest.

1:08 p.m.: The White House says President Joe Biden will tour a Lockheed Martin facility that makes weapons systems, such as Javelin anti-tank missiles, that the administration is providing to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia’s 2-month-old invasion. Biden plans to visit the facility in Alabama on May 3, The Associated Press reported. A Javelin is a long-range guided anti-tank missile that can be carried by one person. The United States says it has provided several thousand of the systems to Ukraine.

12:22 p.m.: The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said Wednesday that 3.4 million people have received life-saving assistance since the start of the war in Ukraine. UNOCHA released a map of Ukraine on Twitter with a graphic showing where most of the assistance has gone.

12:14 p.m.: Kazakhstan may declare a prominent Russian television host persona non grata after he said the Central Asian nation could meet the same fate as Ukraine if it did not side decisively with Russia, a Kazakh official said on Wednesday. Although it has not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Kazakhstan, an oil-rich former Soviet republic, has called for the crisis to be resolved in line with the United Nations charter, has sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine, and has said it will abide by Western sanctions against Moscow, Reuters reported.

12:03 p.m.: In Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, a monument celebrating Russian-Ukrainian Friendship has been dismantled. The sculptures were erected in 1982, but Kyiv Mayor Vitaly Klichko has now ordered their removal. One set of statues were taken down on Tuesday, but he said another sculptural composition would take longer to disassemble. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty asked some residents about their feeling regarding this change.

11:52 a.m.: Switzerland has implemented more European Union sanctions against Russia and Belarus, the government said on Wednesday, in steps designed to reduce the countries' ability to raise funds or expand their industrial capacity. The new measures include an import ban on lignite, coal and other items such as caviar, timber and seafood which are seen as important sources of revenue for Russia, the government said. Also banned are exports to Russia of Swiss goods such as industrial robots and certain chemicals which could be used to strengthen Moscow's industrial production. Further financial sanctions will also come into effect, including no longer allowing trusts to be registered in Switzerland for resident Russian nationals.

11:41 a.m.: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived in Ukraine Wednesday, he tweeted. He is in the region this week to hold talks with the presidents of Russia and Ukraine in an effort to end the war.

11:38 a.m.: The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday it is expelling several Japanese and Norwegian diplomats and placing sanctions on 287 British lawmakers in retaliation for similar steps against Russians over the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

11:32 a.m.: Russian forces used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a pro-Ukraine rally in the occupied city of Kherson on Wednesday, as Moscow tightened its grip over the southern Ukrainian region. Local authorities say Russia appointed its own mayor of Kherson on Tuesday after its troops took over the administration headquarters in the regional capital. Some residents have staged occasional anti-occupation rallies in Kherson and crowds gathered in the city center again on Wednesday, the date Kyiv had said Russia planned to stage a referendum to create a breakaway region like those in eastern Ukraine. Two people, who told Reuters they had participated in the rally, said people were waving Ukrainian flags, chanting "Glory to Ukraine" and singing the national anthem when a large number of Russian forces turned up at the square.

People shout slogans and hold Ukraine's national flag during a protest where tear gas was fired on them in Kherson, Ukraine, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, April 27, 2022 in this still image obtained from a social media video.
People shout slogans and hold Ukraine's national flag during a protest where tear gas was fired on them in Kherson, Ukraine, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, April 27, 2022 in this still image obtained from a social media video.

11:26 a.m.: Belarusian-American composer Eugene Magalif has organized an international musical event to honor and show support for Ukraine. VOA’s Maxim Moskalkov has this story.

Flutists Worldwide Unite in Music to Show Support for Ukraine
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11:12 a.m.: Drone giant DJI Technology Co said it will temporarily suspend business in Russia and Ukraine to ensure its products are not used in combat, making it the first major Chinese firm to cite the conflict in halting sales in Russia, Reuters reported. Ukrainian officials and citizens have accused DJI of leaking data on the Ukrainian military to Russia - allegations the world's largest maker of consumer and industrial drones has called "utterly false." A DJI spokesperson said on Wednesday its suspension of business in Russia and Ukraine was "not to make a statement about any country, but to make a statement about our principles." It added, "DJI abhors any use of our drones to cause harm, and we are temporarily suspending sales in these countries in order to help ensure no-one uses our drones in combat."

11:05 a.m.:

11:02 a.m.: Norway’s Energy Minister Terie Aasland said Wednesday that the Scandinavian country’s position “as a stable, predictable and long-term supplier of energy to the European market is only becoming more important.” Aasland told Norwegian news agency NTB “It is underlined by what is now happening on the part of Gazprom.” Norway exports about 95 percent of its gas via an extensive subsea pipeline network linking it to terminals in Germany, Britain, France and Belgium. Last month, Denmark decided to resume the construction of the Danish part of the Baltic Pipe, which will connect Poland to Norwegian gas fields, The Associated Press reported.

10:57 a.m.:

10:52 a.m.: Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to Russia’s parliament that the goals of the country’s military operation in Ukraine will be achieved, The Associated Press reported. Putin said in an address on Wednesday to both houses of parliament: “I want to emphasize again that all the tasks of the special military operation we are conducting in the Donbas and Ukraine, launched on February 24, will be unconditionally fulfilled.”

10:34 a.m.: The World Health Organization says the war in Ukraine has interrupted lifesaving immunizations in Ukraine, setting back years of progress in countering vaccine preventable diseases. This is World Immunization Week, a time to celebrate the marvel of vaccines that have saved the lives of countless millions. VOA’s Lisa Schlein has this story.

10:23 a.m.: Canada said on Wednesday it was imposing sanctions on 203 individuals that it says are complicit in Russia's attempted annexation of certain areas of Donbas in eastern Ukraine, Reuters reported. Canada has now imposed sanctions on nearly 1,000 individuals and entities from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus since the invasion of Ukraine in late February, the government said in a statement.

10:12 a.m.:

9:55 a.m.: The head of the European Union’s executive Commission says energy companies in the 27-nation bloc that agree to Moscow’s demands to pay for gas deliveries in Russian rubles will be breaching the sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. Ursula von der Leyen spoke after Polish and Bulgarian officials said Moscow was cutting off natural gas deliveries due to their refusal to pay in rubles. Von der Leyen said Wednesday that “our guidance here is very clear.” She said that “to pay in rubles, if this is not foreseen in the contract, is a breach of our sanctions.” She said that, following an urgent meeting of member states, both Poland and Bulgaria are now receiving gas from their EU neighbors.

9:41 a.m.: Finland and Sweden must prepare for increased Russian spy operations, cyber attacks and attempts to influence lawmakers as they consider joining NATO after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, the Nordic nations' intelligence chiefs said on Wednesday. Russia's invasion, which it calls a "special operation", has forced Sweden and Finland to reassess their longstanding military neutrality, and they are expected to announce in May whether they will join the U.S.-led NATO alliance, Reuters reported.

9:22 a.m.: The International Atomic Energy Agency said on Twitter Wednesday that a special team is in Ukraine this week and has delivered equipment to the Chernobyl nuclear facility to improve safety and security.

9:17 a.m.: The International Atomic Energy Agency’s director general says the level of safety at Europe’s largest nuclear plant, currently under Russian occupation in Ukraine, is like a “red light blinking” as his organization tries in vain to get access for work including repairs. In an interview with The Associated Press, Rafael Grossi said that the IAEA needs access to the Zaporizhzhia plant in southern Ukraine so its inspectors can, among other things, re-establish connections with the Vienna-based headquarters of the U.N. agency. And for that, Russia and Ukraine need to help. The plant requires repairs, “and all of this is not happening. So, the situation as I have described it, and I would repeat it today, is not sustainable as it is,” Grossi said.

9:02 a.m.: A team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency are meeting this week with their Ukraine counterparts to discuss current nuclear and radiation safety and security at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, the IAEA said in its most recent statement late Tuesday. The IAEA and Ukraine have agreed to set up a working group on the Chernobyl nuclear facility to coordinate IAEA assistance and support, it said. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi also met with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, saying “I assured him that the IAEA will continue to support Ukraine,” according to the statement.

8:59 a.m.: Ronald Airapetyan, an opposition activist who has been detained several times in recent months for publicly demanding the resignation of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has obtained political asylum in the Netherlands. Airapetyan, a member of the opposition Yabloko party from Russia's southwestern Stavropol Krai region, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on Wednesday that he had to leave Russia in December, several weeks after unknown individuals forced him into a car in the city of Sochi and took him to a forest, where he says they threatened to kill him if he didn't stop his political activities. Airapetyan said the Dutch government saved him from the "grasp" of Russia's Federal Security Service, adding that he does not plan to return to Russia.

8:55 a.m.: A senior U.S. official said the discussions with Russia that led to a prisoner exchange Wednesday did not change the U.S. approach to Russia’s war in Ukraine, VOA’s State Department Bureau Chief Nike Ching reported.

8:38 a.m.: Russia and the United States have carried out a dramatic prisoner exchange, trading a Marine veteran jailed in Moscow for a convicted Russian drug trafficker serving a long prison sentence in America, both countries announced Wednesday. The surprise deal involving Trevor Reed, an American jailed for nearly three years, would have been a notable diplomatic maneuver even in times of peace, but it was all the more extraordinary because it was done as Russia’s war with Ukraine has driven relations with the U.S. to their lowest point in decades, The Associated Press reported.

“Today, our prayers have been answered and Trevor is on his way back safely to the United States,” Reed’s family said in a statement. President Joe Biden, who met in Washington with Reed’s parents last month, trumpeted Reed’s release and noted without elaboration that “the negotiations that allowed us to bring Trevor home required difficult decisions that I do not take lightly."

The Russian foreign ministry described the exchange as the “result of a long negotiation process.” Multiple other Americans still remain jailed in Russia, including WNBA star Brittney Griner and Michigan corporate security executive Paul Whelan.

8:27 a.m.: The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Wednesday that “U.S. citizen Trevor Reed, who was wrongfully detained in Russia” has been released. “We extend our deep appreciation to our many allies and partners who helped in this effort,” he said. “I also wish to commend Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs Ambassador Carstens, Ambassador John Sullivan, and others in our government who have worked tirelessly to achieve this outcome,” he said. “We also remain committed to securing the freedom of all U.S. nationals wrongfully detained abroad,” he added.

8:21 a.m.: Russia's Foreign Ministry says jailed pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko has been exchanged for former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed in a prisoner swap that took place in an unspecified European country. Reed, a 30-year-old from Texas, was sentenced in 2020 after being convicted of assaulting two Russian police officers in 2019. The U.S. government and Reed denied the allegations and questioned the fairness of the proceedings. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this report.

8:18 a.m.: Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday said on Twitter that his Indonesian counterpart had invited him to attend the summit of Group of 20 (G-20) major economies to be held in the Southeast Asian country later this year, and VOA’s Patsy Widakuswara has confirmed the invitation. Ukraine is not a member of the G-20, but the chairs of the grouping have previously invited countries as guests to join meetings. Several G-20 members have called for Russia and its President Vladimir Putin to be excluded from the leaders' summit in Bali in November, but Indonesia has demurred, saying it is too early to decide, Reuters reported.

8:16 a.m.: The United Nations World Tourism Organisation said on Wednesday that Russia had decided to quit the international agency just as its member states were preparing to vote on Russia’s suspension over its invasion of Ukraine. A UNWTO spokesman said that despite Russia’s withdrawal, the assembly would still suspend it as that move would have immediate effects while the formal pull-out process would take a year to complete. A two-thirds majority of 160 total member states must back the suspension, which would only have symbolic consequences for Russia.

8:10 a.m.:

8:04 a.m.: The head of Sweden’s domestic security agency says Russia has a “limited time window” to influence the Scandinavian country’s position on whether to join NATO and attempt to take advantage of it, The Associated Press reported. The head of Swedish security agency SAPO, Charlotte von Essen, said Wednesday that Russian influence on the debate in Sweden “could happen in many different arenas at the same time to influence the media, public opinion and decision-makers.” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to growing support in Sweden and its eastern neighbor Finland, which has a long land border with Russia, for joining NATO. Newspapers in both countries reported this week that the Swedish and Finnish governments have agreed to submit NATO applications at the same time in mid-May.

7:48 a.m.: Russia’s foreign ministry has announced sanctions on 287 members of Britain’s House of Commons, the Russian news agency Interfax reports, according to The Guardian. In a statement, the ministry said the decision to introduce restrictions against members of the U.K. parliament was taken in response to Britain’s decision on 11 Match to sanction 386 members of the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, for their support of the Ukrainian breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, The Guardian said. The 287 MPs who are on the sanctions list “are now closed from entering the Russian Federation,” the statement said, as reported by The Guardian.

7:35 a.m.: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Twitter Wednesday that he has been invited to the upcoming G-20 Summit by host nation Indonesia. Zelenskyy sent the tweet following a phone call with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

7:29 a.m.: The Kremlin says that Russia may halt gas supplies to other European customers following a cutoff to Poland and Bulgaria if they also refuse to switch to payment in rubles, The Associated Press reported. Spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking in a conference call Wednesday with reporters, argued that refusing to switch to rubles reflects a Western desire to “punish Russia at any cost to the detriment of their own consumers, taxpayers and producers.” He rejected the EU’s description of the Russian move to halt supplies to Bulgaria and Poland starting Wednesday as blackmail, insisting that “Russia has remained a reliable supplier of energy resources” and stuck to its contractual obligations. Peskov argued that the demand for payment in rubles is purely technical and doesn’t change price or other contract conditions for consumers.

7:23 a.m.: The vice president of Russia’s Gazprombank has left his job to join Ukraine’s territorial defense forces which are fighting the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Kyiv Independent reported Wednesday.

7:14 a.m.: German climate activists turned off crude oil pipelines at five locations on Wednesday, demanding the country look for other ways to reduce its dependence on Russian gas than starting new fossil fuel-based infrastructure projects such as deep-sea drilling, Reuters reported. “We are in a climate emergency! The German government not only ignores it, it plans to fuel it further. To now want to drill for oil in our North Sea - this is madness that you must stop, Mr. Habeck!” activist Edmund Schulz said in a statement.

7:03 a.m.: Pro-Ukrainian protesters in the Russian-occupied southern city of Kherson were violently dispersed Wednesday, and four people were injured, the Kyiv Independent reported.

6:51 a.m.: Poland’s prime minister has lashed out at Russia for trying to “blackmail” his country with an abrupt cutoff of gas supplies, The Associated Press reported. He says he believes the move was revenge for new sanctions that Warsaw imposed this week against Russia. Speaking to the Polish parliament, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki vowed that Poland would not be cowed by the gas cutoff. He said Poland was safe thanks to years of efforts aimed at securing gas from other countries. Lawmakers stood and applauded when he said that Russia’s “gas blackmail” would have no effect on his country.

6:42 a.m.: Russia reported a series of blasts in the south of the country and a fire at an ammunition depot on Wednesday, the latest in a spate of incidents that a top Ukrainian official described as payback and "karma" for Moscow's invasion, Reuters reported. Without directly admitting that Ukraine was responsible, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said it was natural that Russian regions where fuel and weapons are stored were learning about "demilitarization." "If you (Russians) decide to massively attack another country, massively kill everyone there, massively crush peaceful people with tanks, and use warehouses in your regions to enable the killings, then sooner or later the debts will have to be repaid," Podolyak said.

6:37 a.m.: Ukraine’s General Staff said Wednesday that Russia’s military has captured several settlements in the eastern Donbas region, the Kyiv Independent reported.

6:34 a.m.: The self-styled Interior Ministry of Moldova's separatist Transdniester region that borders Ukraine claimed on Wednesday that shots were fired at a village housing a sprawling Russian ammunition depot after drones flew over from Ukraine. The claim, which has not been independently verified, was the latest in a series made by the Moscow-backed Transdniester authorities over the past several days. Transdniester officials called the incidents "terrorist attacks," while the Kremlin said they were cause for "serious concern," raising fears of spillover from the war in neighboring Ukraine. Transdniester, a narrow strip of land between Moldova proper and Ukraine, declared independence in 1990. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Moldovan Service has this report.

6:31 a.m.: Britain’s top diplomat says the West should send “heavy weapons, tanks, aeroplanes” to Ukraine to bolster its fight against Russia’s invasion, The Associated Press reported. In a speech in London Wednesday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is expected to say, “if Putin succeeds there will be untold further misery across Europe and terrible consequences across the globe. We would never feel safe again. So we must be prepared for the long haul and double down on our support for Ukraine.” Truss is also calling for tougher economic sanctions on Russia, saying the West must cut off Russian oil and gas imports “once and for all.” Extracts of the speech were released in advance by the Foreign Office.

6:28 a.m.:

6:22 a.m.: Russian forces were on Wednesday pounding a huge steel works in Mariupol where the southern Ukrainian city’s last defenders and some civilians are holed up, a local official said. Petro Andryushchenko, an aide to the city mayor, said there had been no let-up in air strikes on the Azovstal plant despite Russian President Vladimir Putin saying there was no need to storm it after declaring victory in Mariupol, Reuters reported. “Air attacks on Azovstal are not subsiding. No ceasefire, but attempts to storm again and again. Despite the statements (by Putin),” Andryushchenko wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “At the same time, street fighting continues again in the sector between the Azovstal plant’s management (buildings) to the street.”

6:19 a.m.: Taiwan’s main military drills this year will draw on the experiences of the war in Ukraine, focusing on asymmetric and cognitive warfare as well as use of reserves as it practices fighting off a Chinese attack, a top officer said on Wednesday. Taiwan, claimed by China as its own territory, has raised its alert level since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, wary that Beijing might make a similar move on the island, though it has reported no signs this is about to happen.

6:13 a.m.:

6:10 a.m.: German gas lobby group Zukunft Gas (Future Gas) said on Wednesday Germany must immediately start stockpiling more gas now that Russia is using the energy source as a political tool, Reuters reported.

“We need to save gas now so that we have enough in winter,” said the group’s head Timm Kehler in a statement.

5:25 a.m.: Russia’s defense ministry said Wednesday its forces carried out missile strikes overnight that destroyed 59 targets in Ukraine, including “hangars with a large batch of foreign weapons and ammunition” sent by the United States and European countries to aid Ukraine’s military.

The United States and its allies signaled Tuesday they are moving swiftly and powerfully to support Ukrainian forces and escalate pressure on Russia’s economy.

The United States at first “needed weeks” to move military equipment and munitions to Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but it now often dispatches new armaments to the Ukrainians within three days.

4:55 a.m.: Jan Lipavsky, the Czech Republic’s foreign minister, spoke to VOA during a visit to Washington this week. The conversation focused on his country’s support for Ukraine including its European Union membership aspirations, post-war reconstruction, the Czech Republic’s upcoming EU rotating presidency beginning July 1. VOA’s Natalie Liu has the report.

4:00 a.m.: Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said Wednesday that Russia’s warning to shut off gas supplies to his country over payment to Gazprom “was not acceptable” and characterized the warning as “one-sided blackmail.” Petkov said Bulgaria is reviewing the contracts with the energy giant including contracts for transit of Russian gas to Serbia and Hungary.

Petkov said he has talked to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who had assured him the 27-member bloc would have a common response, Reuters reported.

A number of European Union members have moved to lessen or eliminate their dependence on Russian energy, including by seeking other sources and boosting their use of renewable energy. “Gazprom’s announcement is another attempt by Russia to blackmail us with gas,” EU Commission President von der Leyen said Wednesday. “We are prepared for this scenario. We are mapping out our coordinated EU response.”

3:15 a.m.: Russian energy giant Gazprom GAZP.MM said on Wednesday it has completely halted gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland due to absence of payments from the countries in roubles for the fuel delivery, Reuters reported.

It said the supplies will be halted until the payments are made.

2:40 a.m.: Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak on Wednesday welcomed promises by the United States and its allies to send more heavy weaponry to Ukraine following talks at a German air base.

“One of Russia’s odd demands at the start of the war was the ‘full demilitarization’ of Ukraine. After yesterday’s epochal meeting of 40 defense ministers, I have bad news for Russia. Capacity, speed, simplified logistics, an expanded range of weapons — Ukraine is strengthening,” he wrote on Twitter.

2:10 a.m.: Reuters reported that Russian gas nominations via Ukraine to Europe stand at 49.8 million cubic meters (mcm) for Wednesday, down from 56 mcm on Tuesday, data from Ukraine’s gas pipeline operator showed.

1:35 a.m.: NATO and allied nations have agreed to step up their military support for Ukraine to fight the Russian invasion, following a meeting hosted by the U.S. Secretary of Defense who warned that weapons must be delivered quickly as the war enters a crucial phase. For VOA, Henry Ridgwell reports.

US: NATO Must Send Weapons to Ukraine ‘at Speed of War’
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1:10 a.m.: The U.K. military intelligence said Wednesday that Russia has limited air access to the north and west of Ukraine, limiting offensive actions to deep strikes with stand-off weapons.

“Russian air activity is primarily focused on southern and eastern Ukraine, providing support to Russian ground forces,” the daily battleground report said in a statement posted on Twitter.

12:01 a.m.: The United States and its allies signaled Tuesday they are moving swiftly and powerfully to support Ukrainian forces and escalate pressure on Russia's economy amid its two-month invasion of neighboring Ukraine. Ken Bredemeier and Anita Powell report.

Some information came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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